April 4, 2011

It's a Dog's Life...

Did you ever have pets when you were growing up?

I've always had dogs. My first dog was named Remus. He was a St. Bernard (one of those huge rescue dogs that you see in the Swiss Alps with the barrel attached to the front of its collar). My mother had gotten him when I was just a baby and we grew up together. He was very protective of me. My mom told me a story of how we were playing in the backyard one day when I was very little. My mother was in the house and I started to climb the fence. Remus must have sensed that I was in danger, so he ran up behind me, bit on to the back of my diaper so I couldn't climb and further, and barked for my mother between his clenched teeth. He was a graceful dog and a gentle giant. He was like a horse standing next to me. Unfortunately, because they are such a large breed, St. Bernards only have a life expectancy of 8 years. Remus lived to be 11, which was amazing, but then he started to have leg problems and he couldn't pick himself up off of the floor anymore. Finally, one day my mom took him away and I never saw him again. I was heartbroken.

The second dog of my life was a Cocker Spaniel named Clifford. My mom surprised me with him and brought him home in a paper shopping bag. She made me carry the bag into the kitchen, not telling me what was in it. "Don't drop it," she said to me firmly. He didn't move at all and I was wondering what was in the bag. When I got to the kitchen, I opened the bag to see that happy puppy face and my heart just bloomed in my chest. What joy! Cocker Spaniels are a much smaller breed and Clifford lived to be 16. He was very friendly and carried himself in a way that was almost regal (if you can believe that of a dog). Clifford got the royal treatment too--I would dress him up, have birthday parties for him. He was the mascot for my little league team and he had his own uniform. He was a fun dog. Then, one day, his kidneys failed. I drove him to the vet's office with his head in my lap, he was barely coherent. When the vet said that there was nothing that could be done, I knew that I wouldn't be leaving with my doggie. I held him in my arms as the vet gave him the shot. He sighed one last time and then rolled over on to his side. I've never sobbed so hard in my life.

The hardest thing about having dogs is that their lifespans are so brief. This afternoon, I had another reminder of that very fact when my dog of the last twelve years became gravely sick. I knew as I was carrying her out to the car that I was about to make that final drive to the vet's office one more time; a trip from which my only souvenir would be a collar that I would keep forever, yet no other dog would ever wear. Her name was Delilah and she was a beautiful German Shorthaired Pointer. My heart is shattered right now. I keep going to the back door, waiting to see her run up the steps or to hear her bark, but I know those things will not come again.

Rest in peace, sweet girl. I will always love you...

"My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever."

~Psalm 73:26